Miller Lite-Why Restages Sometimes Fail–Part 1

Turning around a struggling brand is one of the most difficult things for a marketer to accomplish.  Indeed once a brand goes into a prolonged sales and market share slump, seldom does it experience a quick turnaround.

To deal with these types of situations, marketers often engage in brand restages.  Brand restages typically involve performing product upgrades, making packaging changes, altering one’s brand positioning, or any combination of the above.  Unfortunately if done improperly, brand performance can go from bad to worse.

Classic Mistakes—Product Upgrades 

The examples abound of product restages that did not accomplish their intended objective of turning around a brand.  Classic among these is New Coke whose product formulation change in 1985 failed to take into account the emotional bond that consumers had with the Coca-Cola brand itself.  Other product changes likewise led to disastrous results. Schlitz Beer—once America’s number two brand of beer—in the early 1970’s decided to change to a less expensive formula to bolster the bottom-line.  Instead what occurred was a steep decline in sales, resulting in the Brand being sold to the Stroh Brewery during the 1980’s.  More recently, the mega brand Olay reverted back to its previous Olay Complete for Sensitive Skin formula after obtaining a large number of complaints from disenfranchised consumers.  And just this month, Coke announced that it plans to switch back some of its Vitaminwater products to a crystalline fructose + cane sugar formula, after hearing a loud outcry from consumers when they replaced the former ingredient with stevia. 

Packaging restages have likewise encountered their share of issues when it comes to turning around a brand.  In my next blog, I will discuss the criticality of packaging evolution and the role that it plays in a successful brand restage.

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